Forward DeMar DeRozan knows the midrange jumper has become a lost art, a weapon only a few nonconformists still brandish.
He also recognizes its power, especially late in games when it can demoralize opponents.
“It’s just repetition over and over, countless days, nights of just being real with the attention to detail to how defenders guard you,’’ DeRozan said. “Whether it’s long, strong, tall players, I just put a lot of that into consideration when I’m getting to a spot or when I’m getting to a move. It’s nothing but a feel for me.’’
DeRozan, 32, has been the Bulls’ best player this season. No one in the NBA has scored more points in the fourth quarter.
Leaning heavily on his midrange game, he helped the Bulls escape New York with two big victories.
On Thursday, DeRozan thwarted the Knicks’ late-game comeback, going 6-for-7 from the field and scoring 18 points in the fourth quarter. On Saturday in the Bulls’ comeback victory against the first-place Nets, he went 6-for-11 from the field and had 13 points in the fourth.
DeRozan was scoring a league-best 7.7 points per game in the fourth quarter while shooting 52.9% from the field. And if the opposition wants to foul him in late-game situations, he’s shooting 90% from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
“It helps our team tremendously, especially if we’re frantic,’’ guard Zach LaVine said. “He’s been in these big-time games, situations, so I don’t think a lot of things rattle him at all. You let him take over the game, calm it down, get to the free-throw line, get to his spots, and I think it gives the whole team a deep breath, like, ‘We’re OK.’ ’’
While most players in the league shoot the three or drive to the basket at the end of tight games, DeRozan does most of his damage from the two-point area outside the paint.
Those shooting spots were frowned upon a few years ago, but thanks to DeRozan and a few others, the midrange game is making a comeback and being appreciated again.
Kobe Bryant was one of DeRozan’s favorite players to watch when he was coming up. Bryant could score from anywhere, but his midrange shot was his dagger.
DeRozan studied his idol for countless hours and continues to work on that midrange game.
“I feel like I try to master [the midrange] whenever I get into an offseason, understanding my angles, getting shots off whether it’s off the dribble, going right, going left, off counters, off fadeaways, post-ups,’’ DeRozan said. “It took years. It’s not something that happened overnight.’’
That’s why his game isn’t going to change anytime soon. DeRozan will hit the occasional three-pointer, he’ll attack the rim with either hand, but he knows the midrange is his business, and business has been booming this season.
“I forgot who it was, but it was an older player who told me to just stick to what you’re great at and master that,’’ DeRozan said. “That was all the confidence I needed, especially when the game started changing in 2014 or 2015. I just stuck to my guns and continued to try to be the best at that.’’